The Center for the Study of the American Electorate reported today: Deep emotions about the presidency of George W. Bush, both pro and con, and unprecedentedly vigorous and expensive voter mobilization drives propelled voter turnout in the 2004 general election to its highest level since 1968, despite long lines at polling places that had some citizens waiting as much as seven hours to cast their ballots.
When all the vote-counting is completed by early December, it is predicted that an estimated 120,200,000 citizens will have cast their votes for President in this election, a 59.6 turnout rate of eligible citizens, the highest since 1968 when 61.9 percent of eligibles voted.
Nearly 15 million more Americans voted in 2004 than in 2000 when 105,400,000 voted, a 54.3 percent voting rate.
The Republicans centralized, professional and highly targeted voter identification and get-out-the-vote campaign bested the Democrats decentralized but equally vigorous mobilization efforts. ...
Turnout in battleground states increased by 6.3 percentage points, while turnout in the other states (and the District of Columbia) increased by only 3.8 percentage points.
Democratic turnout increased by nearly three times in battleground states (up 3.6 percentage points) as compared to 1.5 percentage points in the other states, pointing to the concentration of resources the party devoted to the battlegrounds.
On the other hand, GOP turnout increases were roughly equal (4.4 percentage points in battleground states and 3.9 in the others), speaking to the long-term and successful strategy of Presidential political advisor Karl Rove in targeting evangelical fundamentalists and rural voters as the constituencies where Republican turnout could be increased.
Evidence for this was augmented by the six states which had record high turnout in this election, all voting for the President Alabama (54.8 percent of eligibles), Georgia (49.6), Florida (61.8), South Carolina (50.8), Tennessee (54.5) and Virginia (58.4). The District of Columbia also recorded a new high (52.3).
When final counting is done, only one state Arizona is likely to have recorded a decline in turnout. Only in South Dakota did a race for statewide office (Daschle-Thune) exceed the vote for President and that by only 3,000 votes.
On the other hand, turnout for Kerry was lower than that for other statewide Democratic aspirants (for governor, U.S. Senate or aggregate vote for House of Representatives) in 28 states out of 37 states which had statewide contests. The Presidents turnout was lower in only nine states of 37.
Ralph Nader received less than 0.2 percent of the eligible vote and all non-major party candidates, including Nader, received 0.9 percent of the eligible vote.
While there are no reliable figures on the much-publicized youth turnout (exit polls are notoriously and consistently unreliable on turnout questions), it is likely that college-attending youth substantially increased their turnout rate in the states in which they were targeted the battleground states. It is also probable that college-attending youth increased their turnout much more modestly in non-battleground states. But it is likely that there were no increases in turnout of non-college-attending youth who were largely not targeted. -- CSAE press release via Center for Voting & Democracy
Note: for a different take on Kerry's ability, see this on DonkeyRising.